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Ingredients should be used    ^


If you put recipes up you should try to be complete and correct. It's not enough to just list the ingedients and say 'mix all these togeter'. Well, in some cases it is but in other it isn't. Listing tomatoes, onion, garlic, carrot and cellery to make a pasta-sauce is all right. But not telling that the onion should be diced small, that the carrot must be sliced into narow strips and the garlic needs to be crushed is wrong.

It's no help either to list a bunch of ingredients, then explain how to make the dish/sauce but forget one of the ingredients. Like that sweet-sour sauce recipe I once had, with carrots and onion and leeks and celery and gingerroot, and good explanation of how to cut things and in what sequence to mix everything. Only it never mentioned the gingerroot apart from the ingredients. Do you grate it? slice it? crush it? add in the beginning? at the end? use it as a good-luck charm while cutting the rest?


Erring the other way round is not good either.
If it's an ingredient then put it up among the ingredients.

Like you note salmon, mushrooms, oil, gingerroot and potatoes as ingredients. Then this poor guy goes out with that list and buys everything. Back home he starts to peel the potato and bake the mushrooms and poch the salmon. And then suddenly the recipe indicates to add the chicken stock to the mushrooms. Is that chicken stock supposed to suddenly appear out of thin air?

The only exceptions here are a few simple things that everybody should have around. Things like salt and peper, maybe olive-oil.
Now the olive oil is an interesting point. If it is merely used to prevent buring of the food you don't have to mention it leavng the experimenting cook the freedom to use her preferred product which may well be some oil-spray or margerine or butter. If the oil is used as part of the dish, as in the making of a pizza dough, then it must be mentioned because alternatives produce different results.


Nr-5 knives, nr-7 shears, double sized bowls and second-rate cooks.    ^


Another thing I don't appreciate is mentioning of modern stuff. Not because I am against modern technology (what would I be doing here, surrounded buy a bunch of computers?) but because things aren't standard. Like 'mix all this in your blender set at mark-7' my blemder has only 5 markes, does that mean I can't make this dough? Or 'put the nuts in a kitchen robot using the nr-5 knives', sorry, I have no robot or I don't have these knives, or worse your nr-5 knives are completely different from mine.

If you make things and publish the recipe, go for real basic ingredients and tools. Or put a picture of the tools as an explanation somewhere (like on my terms page). And it doesn't hurt to mention alternative ingredients/methods sometimes. Or show pictures, I have no robot with nr-5 knives but if I see the result I may produce the same effect by hand.


Brand names are not ingredients    ^


I also hate recipes that use special ingredients. No, I have nothing against the less common vegetables or meats or spices. What I hate is where not the ingredient is named but a brand-name is used. Like 'use one packet of Imperial in the dough [of cake]'. Yeah, right but ImperialTM is not available or even known worldwide. Hell, it may even be something completely different (unedible) in some other country.

Same thing with non-branded pre-fabricated products. What is 'non-stick cooking spray'? Can I use olive oil in stead? Is it only intended for it's non-stick properties or does it add falvour/colour/... ? Just remember that what you use, cooking-spray and cheese-spray and these things, are not common all over the world.


If you have to use a product name because you know of no other thing that can be used as replacement producing a satisfactory result it would be a good idea to add a picture.
Generic porduct names are acceptabel too. Mentioning Bertoli olive oil or Heinz ketchup is OK because, while not worldwidely avialable it's obvious that other brands of olive oil or ketchup can be used.


Fast food? Go else where.    ^


Another short note (but I could rant on for megabytes about this). Try to use fresh basic ingredients.

It's usually more healty and you grow some respect for them as you work.

I know it's easy to just pick up a can and spray cheese on top of a pizza. Yeah, easy and fast but recipes are not about fast-food. And whipped cream from a tin can doesn't have much to do with whipping (and sometimes even less with cream). It's much more effort to get a block of cheese and grate it over your pizza but I bet you notice the difference in taste.

Going back to that pizza because it's a good example.

You can order take-out pizza (or bring a 50seconds microwave-ready one from your local supermarket), that's fast and easy and is probably even cheaper than making one yourself. But there is no satisfaction in it, omly excess calories.

The next step is to buy several parts and put them together. Buy a 'pizza bottom', a 'Bolgnese topping' and add them together. That's better than the take-out because you can add a bit extra cheese or olives, or you can remove the olives. You can add a bit of a personal tough.

Skipping ten steps.

And you can go the whole way. Take flour, yeast and water to make the dough. Mash and siff tomatoes for sauce. Peel and slice onion and garlic to add to the sauce. Buy some fresh fish, clean it, cook and slice it for the topping. Get a block of cheese (ex several varietes) for topping. Add your prefered olive oil (and olives). And don't forget that dried basil is no match for the fresh, shredded type.


(yeah I warned you about ranting, didn't I?)


Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying that fast and simple or ready-made stuff isn't edible. It's perfectly good and handy for the times you don't feel like cooking or when time is very restricted. It can actually be a lifesaver if you get absolutely unexpected guests that don't come by for a culinary experience, like some friends invited for a bout of videagaming by your eight-year old without informing you (of course). It usually is just not worth mentioning in a recipe. Sometimes it is worth mentioning though.

I am not saying that using short-cuts is a bad thing either. I mean it's best to do things yourself but making a good lobster-sauce for example will take several hours at the least and it will take a lot of ingredients, few of them cheap or readily available at that. A quick way out is to take a tin can of concentrated lobster soup as a starting point. Still, you should make the lobster-sauce from the basics at least once in your life. The next time you eat it, for example in a restaurant, you will know whether you got the 'real thing' or a short-cut.
And no basics do not mean you go out and plant tomato plants and an olive tree and start breeding cows for milk. Juts to be able to make a pizza.


One size fits all, or causes fits in all, ah, I forgot.    ^


While I am at it, ...

Always note for how many portions the recipe is intended. For some things this is easy. A typical apple pie is just for 4 or 6 people (assume 2 slices each), if you got more people to feed (or less but hungry ones) you make two or more pies but in the recipe you only mention the amounts for one. Same goes with a standard cook-book recipe with some of your own special modifications, just note the number of people indicated in the book.

This is of course a dificult point for fully self-made or family-heritage recipes. If you are in a big time meat eating family (1) a steak of 300g may be just about normal while for someone else(2), used to 100g steaks, it may be extremely huge. An average steak should be counted at around 150g. How about a roast for 4 people? Well, from a thinly sliced roast you usually eat more (if there is plainly enough) so for family-1 that results in a big roast of around 1300g while family-2 would have enough with a small 500g roast. Now if you are from family-1 you should scale down when you write a recipe. And you should scale up if you use someone elses recipe. If you're from family-2 you do the reverse.
BTW family usually inplies 4 people, 2 parents + 2 kids, with the kids being almost grown up. Real families of course are different, so if for example your family exists out of one parent and one (still young) child you must adapt the recipes you read. If you write up a recipe of your own though you shouldn't say it will feed a family, you either scale up the recipe or mention the family size.

Of course things seldom are as easy as that. Family-1 may be big in meat but maybe they don't eat much vegetables while family-2 makes up to the small amount of meat by eating extra vegetables. So simply scaling all the ingredients is not always a good idea.

The best way to go is find a simple, common recipe in a good cooking-book and compare it to what you would make for your own family.


A good average example of a light meal would be per adult 150g steak, 200g cleaned vegetables (haricots or sprouts or ...) and 200g potatos. That is not much (for western standards) but I assume there is soup before and maybe a dessert afterward.


Diet.    ^


Food is great. When you have it.

Troughout human history food has been a scarce resource. At times even absolute scarce leading to widespread famine and starvation. Those were bad times indeed. But even in good times food was scarce. Not all year round. Usually with a surplus during summer and fall and a scarceness during winter and early spring. Now this is not recent history. This is history going on for millions, nay billions of years, applying to all animals. All those millions of years in our recent evolution has tuned us into eating machines, stuffing ourselves as and when possible with as much food as available. Typically fattening up trough autum and getting trough winter on our layers of fat and whatever scraps could be found.
Man has become an exception only recently. The eat-all-you-can-and-more reflex has stayed.
And with current day constant abbuncance of cheap food all around this leads to a super-size culture.

And to a fitness and dieting culture.
My advice to all dieting people is simple. Don't.
Well, unless you are dieting for some specific medical reason. Thinking about your caloric uptake is good but when you start measuring off your food up to the gram you're not doing things right. Troughout evolution our bodies have evolved to become efficient. If we need energy we will convert whatever we eat into energy. If we need building material, to recover from injury or illness, we will convert food to building blocks. So if you measure calories out to single digits you're probably start converting zero-calory food into energy supplies. And, when you fall ill you'll convert needed energy food into building blocks and thus undermine your energy balance and basic health.
Much better than a strict measured off diet is to go for regular well balanced meals and skip the in-between stuff. One of the main causes of fat-layers is added sugar. Because we have been energy starved troughout evolution and sugar is the most potent energy bearer we have developed a likening (and the nessesary tastebuds) for sweetness. Marketing people know that and the result is that in almost all the ready-made foods and snacks there is added sugar. Why would they add sugar to salted potato chips? (yes, check the ingredients). And who needs sugar in his ketchup? Yep added again. Just because we choose them.

So stop buying candy bars, and chips and nuts. And start cooking your own meals from basic ingredients. Just make your own spaghetti sauce from tomatoes and onions and garlic and stuff and then compare that to a jar from some random shop. If you get used to selfmade unsweetened food you are likely to notice and dislike most commercial foods. I am used to it now and when I get a hamburger (I do that once a year) I notice the meat and even the fat tastes sweet. Yuk.
Cook your own food.

Probably as important is to stop drinking those typical soda stuff in cans. Even the "diet" Coke and relatives contain to much sugar. The non-diet ones probably contain the letal dosis.
The best thing to drink is plain water or tea. I would say beer and wine are good as well but recently (over the last 30/40 years) sugar has been added to them as well. Water is good. Tea or coffee is good as well if you brew it yourself and don't add -to much- sugar.

So stop eating in-betweens, drink plain and prepare your own food.


Hhh.    ^



Food for thought.

© 2008 Swijsen